UPDATE 2-EOG has lion's share of 900 North Dakota wells awaiting fracking

Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:11pm EDT
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(Adds comment from EOG in final paragraph)

By Ernest Scheyder

WILLISTON, N.D., April 14 (Reuters) - Oil producer EOG Resources Inc has the lion's share of an estimated 900 North Dakota wells waiting to be fracked, according to state data, showing that even major oil titans are mothballing operations while they hope for a rebound in oil prices.

For months the conventional wisdom in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation had been that smaller producers with weak cash flow comprised the bulk of that estimate.

While the estimate had been published monthly, it was not clear until a Tuesday update from the state's Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) who was dominating the list. Oilfield service companies have aggressively sought the information, hoping to drum up new business.

By late May, the number of wells waiting to be fracked is expected to breach 1,000, DMR officials said, fueled largely by cheap oil and a $5.3 billion industry tax break expected to hit in June.

Oil producers have up to a year to frack the wells before they must ask state officials to label them "temporarily abandoned."

The fact that industry stalwarts like EOG are having to hold off on fracking new wells shows how much low prices make the remote Bakken far less economical compared to other U.S. shale plays.

Prices to transport oil from North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast or coastal refineries add in some cases nearly $10 per barrel to the cost of crude, a steep price not faced for transport from Texas wells, which also are connected to a much-larger pipeline network.   Continued...